History Of Super Bowl Prop Bets: How They Became A National Pastime

  • The first Super Bowl prop bet was placed on William Perry, a defensive tackle, to score a touchdown in Super Bowl XX.
  • Cross-sport Super Bowl betting props became popular in the mid-1990s.
  • A Super Bowl prop bet is almost any bet that doesn’t include the spread, moneyline, or Over/Under.
  • Hundreds of prop bets for Super Bowl 55 are up including odds for the coin toss, Halftime Show, and even the commercials.

TAMPA, Fla. – Entering Super Bowl week, online sportsbooks are flooded with Super Bowl 55 prop bets for seemingly everything imaginable about the big game.

Not only are there betting lines set for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also for events such as the coin toss, national anthem, Halftime Show, and more. Super Bowl LV betting props even go as far as the Super Bowl commercials.

All of these prop bets have made the Super Bowl the single biggest legal sports betting event in the U.S. every year, but their history goes back to a man known to the world as “The Refrigerator.”

The William Perry Prop Bet

The origins of the Super Bowl prop bet phenomenon started in Super Bowl XX when the Chicago Bears took on the New England Patriots.

The Bears were in the midst of their short dynasty and were clobbering their opponents so badly that the head coach at the time Mike Ditka would put in his legendary defensive tackle William “the Refrigerator” Perry for special offensive plays.

The Bears were heavily favored over the Patriots so Art Manteris, who ran Caesars Sportsbook at the time, had to think outside of the box in order to get more casual fans to bet on the Super Bowl.

Perry had been used for short yardage plays a few times earlier that season. So in order to garner intrigue into an expected blowout, Caesars posted a betting prop for Perry to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl at 20-1 odds.

Other sportsbooks caught on and listed the same betting line. The bet became so popular that the odds shrunk from 20-1 to 2-1 before kickoff.

Then, late in the third quarter with one yard to go for the Bears to score a touchdown, Chicago handed off to the big man and a new sensation was born.

Super Bowl Prop Bets Explode

While the idea began in the 1980s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that Super Bowl prop betting took off.

“During the early 90’s we were seeing the Super Bowl was a blowout each and every year,” said Jay Kornegay, current Vice President of Race and Sports Operations at Las Vegas SuperBook. “We could see it in the crowd and by the time the second half came around, people were bored.”

From 1990 to 1995, only one Super Bowl was decided by one possession. The rest of the Super Bowls were decided by 13 points or more. But, in 1995 Kornegay had a way to spice up the games.

“When we put up the 49ers and Chargers in the 1994 Super Bowl, we put up “Who would score more points on Super Bowl Sunday — Michael Jordan or the 49ers?” and that was like the first cross-sports prop, where we took other events that were happening and connected it to something that could happen in the Super Bowl,” said Kornegay in an interview with Business Insider. “And it got a lot of attention and publicity, and people loved it, so we started adding more props.”

“The Niners were a 19.5-point favorite or something like that — there was no doubt who was going to win the game. So we took those 20 or 30 props that we were having, and we bumped it up to like 100. And it just took off like wildfire. People loved it.”

Prop Bets Today

Super Bowl prop bets have become some popular that the betting lines offered don’t have to do with the players or teams themselves anymore. Those who regularly bet on the NFL at online sportsbooks have seen prop bets include the announcers themselves and odds on what they’ll say.

One of the wildest prop bets in recent Super Bowl history came during last year’s Super bowl when online sportsbooks were asking bettors if Jennifer Lopez was going to show butt cleavage during the Halftime Show.

The popularity of Super Bowl prop bets has gotten so popular that they now make up close to, if not, over half of the overall Super Bowl betting handle at major online sportsbooks.

According to John Murray, the Westgate sportsbook director in Las Vegas, Nevada, props account for more than 50% of the amount wagered on the Super Bowl. Nick Bogdanovich, sportsbook director for William Hill, estimates that prop bets will account for 40 to 45 percent of the Super Bowl 55 betting handle.

Most prop bets will close at kickoff. Super Bowl 55 is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcasted by CBS.

News tags: Art Manteris | Chicago Bears | Jay Kornegay | Jimmy Vaccaro | Kansas City Chiefs | Las Vegas Super Book | New England Patriots | SB 55 | Super Bowl | Super Bowl 55 | Super Bowl LV | Super Bowl Prop Bets | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | William Perry | William Refrigerator Perry

Hasan Nabulsi

– In his career, Hasan has worked both local and state government positions—including the Attorney General’s Office in Florida. On top of being familiar with the legislative process, he has also been researching and writing on the legality of sports betting across the US. Outside of work you’ll most likely find him producing or playing music, playing sports, or working on creative writing projects. You’ll also catch him at Doak Campbell Stadium cheering on the Noles.

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